Saturday, January 26, 2013

Murder at Markham: Review

Murder at Markham is Patricia Sprinkle's debut mystery novel.  It features Sheila Travis, the recently widowed wife of a diplomat.  Sheila has just returned to the States from Japan and is looking for a job--not out of financial necessity, but as a way of keeping occupied while she sorts out her life.  She lands a job as administrative assistant to John Dehaviland, the extremely pompous president of the Markham Institute. Markham is a very old and respected training ground for up-and-coming graduate students in the world of diplomatic affairs.  Sheila barely has time to settle into her new job before a young woman is found dead in one of the icy cold storage rooms in the Institute's basement.  The freezer-like conditions have kept the body from being discovered even though the murder happened nearly a month ago at the beginning of the Christmas break.

Rumors of Sheila's involvement in a few similar incidents in Japan reach Mike Flanagan, the investigating officer, and he gives her strict instructions to keep her nose out of his case.  But Sheila's Aunt Mary arrives and uses her Southern charm to win over Flanagan so he will keep the ladies informed on the progress of the investigation.  Nick Capeletti, Markham's business manager, is shoved down the stairs and the former administrative secretary is murdered as well.  Flanagan's investigation makes him single out Quint Barringer, the former lover of the first victim, as the killer.  But Sheila and her aunt are convinced that Flanagan has blinders on and isn't seeing the whole picture.  They start asking questions on their own and soon Sheila's life is in danger too.  A final showdown in Markham's lounge is needed to bring the culprit out in the open.

This is a decent story for a first novel.  There are characters with some flair and some very good descriptions of the Markham Institute and Chicago.  I like the Chicago setting very much--which goes a long way considering I'm more of a British mystery kind of girl.  The mystery is fairly clued--perhaps too much so because I spotted the important ones right away.  I didn't get quite all the right answers in the right order, but near enough to spot the killer long before the denouement.  I am grateful to Erin at The Paperback Stash--she mentions a Patricia Sprinkle mystery (from a later series) on her blog.  As part of the 2013 Book Bingo Challenge we're supposed to take a suggestion from another participant to read for our Free Space.  I wasn't able to find Who Invited the Dead Man? at my library, but it did lead me to Murder at Markham--a new academic setting to fit into my love for academic mysteries.  Three stars for a decent read.


Peggy Arthurs said...

Sounds very good, Bev. I like the cover.

Ryan said...

I love the cold, give me snow and ice anyday, but I've always been scared of freezing to death. I hope the poor girl was already dead before she was put in the freezer.